Little noticed among the many derelictions in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina is that low level employees who use government credit cards just had their purchase limit raised to $250,000 per transaction. That's right -- the "micro-purchase threshold" is now a quarter of million dollars per transaction if you claim the purchase was disaster-related.
You may comfort yourself that there can't be many of these government-issued megacards, but you'd be wrong. According to an L A Times story there are currently 300,000 of them in circulation. And their use is not limited to professional buyers; very often they are issued to agency support staff -- perfectly reasonable if you are trying to keep the office in copier paper; madness if you are reconstructing a city.
Apparently there is a long history of mismanagement of credit cards in the federal government, just as there often is in businesses and non-profits. Plastic is just so easy to use; it lends itself to abuse. In fact, the Office of Management and Budget was just about to issue a circular on a new program to try to get a grip on credit card use named "Improving the Management of Government Charge Card Programs." Guess that is at least postponed. Forbes Magazine asserts:
We all want to do all we can to help the people of the Gulf Coast recover -- but I do think that Congress, which approved the new "limit,' could have put in a few controls over what is done with our tax dollars.
I admit it is sort of fun to think about what might be purchased with those cards. If I had one, I might think the disaster required a nice light-weight kayak; what would you buy?